Time travel in Brunnerville
I have an exciting story to discuss this month, and it has to do with the Wissler house in Brunnerville which stood until recently on John Beck School property.
My article last December focused on the history of the house and its demolition. I also spoke about the builder Aaron Wissler who was the famous iron master at the Brunnerville Foundry. Since that writing, the house and garage on the property have been torn down and demolished as scheduled.
During the demolition process, a sealed wooden box was discovered behind the date stone and set aside by the men working on site that day. It was then given to school district employees in case any old important items or documents were inside. The school district then contacted The Lititz Historical Foundation where I serve on the board of directors. I followed up with an e-mail on behalf of the museum stating my excitement in wanting to examine the contents of the box due to my interest in this house and its history.
After a few e-mail exchanges, a date and time was set for me to meet with the school board member to open the contents of the wooden box. Needless to say I was very excited and could not wait to see what was inside.
The day finally arrived and I invited my friend, Tom Hackman, to accompany me to the school that morning. As a boy, Tom worked at the Brunnerville Iron Foundry and is also very knowledgeable on Brunnerville history. I knew he would appreciate being there for the box’s opening and was just as excited and curious as I was to learn what was inside.
Handling the old wooden box carefully with white cotton gloves, we removed the top. The lid was kept in place with just one nail, so the inside was by no means airtight. We started to remove items very carefully one by one as the excitement built. In a very small space inside the box were the following items: a small patent book in German dated 1867 published by Scientific American; a copy of a Scientific American newspaper dated 1872; two Lancaster Inquirer newspapers — one dated Aug. 24, 1872 and one dated Aug. 31, 1872; a copy of an Aaron Wissler patent for improvement in horse power which was granted on Dec. 12, 1871; a small handwritten notebook; and five Wissler family portraits. Due to extreme aging and wear, only two of the portraits could be identified: that of Leah Wissler and one of Aaron himself.
After examining all of the items, it was perfectly clear that this wooden box was actually a time capsule that Aaron had put together some 140 years ago and securely placed behind the wall near the date stone when the house was built in 1872. Although most of the items are in deplorable shape, they are identifiable and very important none the less. It was Wissler’s hope that this time capsule would be eventually found and opened to give whoever was interested a first hand glimpse into Wissler’s life during 1872. I felt very lucky and humbled to be one of the first people to view the inside contents knowing that the last person to handle and view these items was Aaron Wissler.
The notebook described above is the most important piece in the collection. It contains many pages written in Wissler’s own hand. Like the rest of the contents, there is much wear and damage to almost every page. Most of the words are legible; however, many are not. Please note that great effort and care has been taken to decipher the words and sentences as closely as they appeared in the notebook. Many words are impossible to decipher due to stains and extreme poor condition of some pages. Every effort has been made to reproduce below exactly how the passages were written. You will see that a blank space is used wherever words could not be deciphered.
August 22nd, 1872
Brunnerville is the name of this place at present.
At the request of my Master architect, to write this to give the _____ of all the masons and mechanics that assisted in erecting this building came to the conclusion to do so. By the help of Him that created us.
Aaron Wissler is my name. I was born in an old house by Middle Creek now owned by my uncle Levi Wissler. The house is yet standing with the gable and in the creek but it is not inhabited anymore.
I was born to Ezra and Mary Wissler at 7 o clock 20 minutes in the morning sign August 24th 1832, and am now 40 years the half of time allowed in Psalms chapter 90 verse 10.
Page 3 and 4:
My wife was born to J. Keller and his wife Kassia at one o clock in the afternoon (sign of Peices) September 6 1835. Now 37 years old her birth place was down at Conestoga in the farm now owned by Levi Rupp. My father and mother in law lived with us from 29 March 1870 to June 11 1871 when my mother in law died and was buried on the 14 June 1871 Springville grave yard on ______ _________ farm on the other side New Ephrata now called Lincoln. There rests the remains of my wifes beloved mother in peace. Her birth name was Royer. Her mother is yet living with her son Edward Royer in Schoenck. She is now 82 years old. Old and feeble now.
John H. Keller
My father in law lived with us after his wife’s death toll July 27th 1871, when he moved to his father yet living John Keller senior at Lincoln. At an advanced age of 88 years this August 6th, 1872. There my father in law took unto him of second wife in June 1872 by name of Misses Catherine Hollinger a born German.
Page 6 is left blank.
I and my wife are blessed with 2 children a boy and a girl. The boy’s name is John K. Wissler was born 4 o clock 11 minutes in the morning sign of virgin February 11th, 1857. The girls name is Anna Mary Wissler was born at half past 6 in the morning January 16th, 1859 sign of twins. We were married on the 21st of October 1856 and lived with my father and mother for 11 years farming on their farm west of ________.
Page 8 is left blank.
My father’s name is Ezra Wissler. My mother’s name was Mary Bauman daughter of John Bauman a seven day baptist of Old Ephrata. My grandfathers name was Jacob Wissler his wife is Anna Eby Single the both buried in Hammer Creek Mennonite Grave Yard at Meeting House.
Page 10 is left blank.
In the year 1868 I am my family moved to this place in an old house all the buildings here were old and decayed. We lived in the old house until this new house is erected. After 4 1/2 years time after being six months out of business my father in law agreed with me to buy the Brunnerville Foundry and Machine shops we did so. So we bought the whole establishment for $740010 where we are carrying on business up to this time the whole management is under my control.
To be concluded next month! From Brunnerville
to Broad Street By
Cory Van Brookhoven More WISSLER, page A16